Overwatch 2 director Aaron Keller and executive producer Jared Neuss announced Tuesday in a Twitch stream that a cornerstone of the game’s promised story mode, Hero Missions, had been canceled. The game’s fanbase hasn’t taken too kindly to the news, which is why on Friday, Keller took to the Overwatch Blog to offer a more in-depth explanation behind the decision.
In 2019, the Overwatch 2 team announced upcoming PvE content in the form of Story Missions and Hero Missions (or “Hero Mode”). Keller reiterated Friday that while development on the latter mode has stopped, the former is still set to come to Overwatch 2 later this year. “The work done here is amazing, leaps and bounds above what we’ve built for PvE previously in our game, and I can’t wait for our players to get their hands on them,” Keller said. “We’ll be sharing more details there in the coming weeks.”
Concerning the cancellation of Overwatch 2’s Hero Missions, which would have allowed players to upgrade individual heroes through talent trees in what was supposed to be a deeply replayable PvE version of the game, Keller goes into the history of Overwatch as a game born out of the cancellation of an MMO Blizzard was developing, codenamed Project Titan. The plan, Keller says, was to keep building on Overwatch to make it something bigger — not quite Titan-sized, but fully featured.
“When we launched Overwatch in 2016, we quickly started talking about what that next iteration could be,” Keller said. “Looking back at that moment, it’s now obvious that we weren’t as focused as we should have been on a game that was a runaway hit. Instead, we stayed focused on a plan that was years old. Work began on the PvE portion of the game and we steadily continued shifting more and more of the team to work on those features.
“Things rarely go as planned in game development. We struggled to find our footing with the Hero Mission experience early on. Scope grew. We were trying to do too many things at once and we lost focus. The team built some really great things, including hero talents, new enemy units and early versions of missions, but we were never able to bring together all of the elements needed to ship a polished, cohesive experience.”
After much internal deliberation, the team decided to cancel Overwatch 2’s Hero Missions — a decision Keller acknowledged would upset many of the game’s players. “This has been hard for us, but as the director on this project, I have to do my best to make decisions that put the game and the community first, even when those decisions are disappointing,” Keller said. “In this case, I had trouble pivoting away from a vision that just wasn’t working. And for that I would like to apologize to our players and to our team. I’m sorry.”
Keller closes out the post by stating the Overwatch 2 team is still committed to delivering Story Missions, new co-op content, and new stories told both within and outside of the game itself. Keller’s final note compares this point in Overwatch 2’s development to that of Project Titan, representing “a moment of metamorphosis” for the team and the project. Added Keller, “This is another moment of change. And the future of Overwatch will be born out of it.”
“We are focusing our efforts and our passion into making this game an ever-evolving experience,” Keller said. “We are still committed to building many of the elements we talked about at BlizzCon 2019, including the Story Missions that delve into the next chapter of the Overwatch universe, new types of co-op content we haven’t yet shared, and new stories that we’re planning to tell both in and out of the game. We’re excited about this direction and we can’t wait for you to finally get to experience what we’ve been building.”